A couple of days ago I post on my Hard-boiled Detective Revival Novel ‘The Hypnotic Private Eye’ starring the late Caryl Chessman, and, this morning I read that the actor Danny Trejo was in a group hypnotic session with Charlie Manson – while in prison! This was around the time Ken Kesey was working in a mental ward. In my dime novel, Ken is put in a hypnotic state – he never comes out of – and thus he gives birth the the hippie movement! What the fuck! What kind of synchronicity is this!
I wonder if Thomas Pynchon read this article. He has Manson in his novel ‘Inherent Vice’. How about my ex-wife, who lived with Pynchon? Tarantino must have seen this! The kin of Bruce Lee are not happy with what this director wrote in what can be described as a Dime Novel Revival, a Pulp Fiction rebirth. I and my newspaper has got The Big Scoop – every damn day!
Above is my kin, Jessie Benton-Lyman working on a statue. I lived down the street from the Lyman Family who are said to have adopted some of Psycho Charlie’s ideas. Two members of his family starred in Zabriskie Point. It’s like the collective subconscious of the Baby Boomers are reborning those Dark Times now that we face our mortality – for sure! We can not help but go back – now that The Trance is broken, and….we come out of our spell.
Trejo remembers that a “greasy, dirty, scrawny” Manson was “so poor, he didn’t have a belt, and instead used a piece of string to keep his pants up.”
The “Heat” star says he felt sorry at the time for Manson, who was so small, he needed protection. A couple of days after they met, the notorious criminal told Trejo and his pals that he had hypnotic powers and “could get us high.”
“It was like a guided meditation,” the “Spy Kids” star recalls in his book, which details his incredible life story, from being a teenage heroin addict in and out of prison to a beloved character actor who has appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows.
Manson first talked the group into thinking they were smoking weed and then heroin.
“By the time he described it hitting my bloodstream, I felt the warmth flowing through my body,” Trejo remembers. “If that white boy wasn’t a career criminal, he could have been a professional hypnotist.”
Manson was released from jail in 1967 and began to attract a group of followers who later became known as the Manson Family. In 1969, the followers went on a “Helter Skelter” killing spree, brutally murdering seven people including pregnant actress Sharon Tate.
The Hypnotic Private Eye
A Movie Idea
A group of Freud’s disciples team up with a group of men’s magazine writers (known as The Lustful Eye), a couple of horror movie makers, the King of the Beatniks (who owns the Hungry 1) and Princess Marie Bonaparte, who claims she is the grandmother of Caryl Chessman. Together they hatch a scheme to alter the conciousness of the world, with the help of the Macumba Love Drug. They want to create a vortex of super creative people in the legendary Shangri-La that Carl’s father, Prince Peter, discovered in his visit to Tibet. This is the scheme that Ken Kesey stumbled upon when he lived in the experimental community on Perry Lane in Menlo Park. There is powerful evidence Ken was put in a hypnotic trance he never got out of. The giant image of Kesey in Springfield holds the key that will unlock your mind! Study that bookcase! Long live the Grateful Dead of Macumba!
“Truman Capote: The truth is, the LaBiancas and Sharon Tate and her friends were killed to protect you. Their deaths were directly linked to the Gary Hinman murder.
Bobby BeauSoleil: I hear you. I hear where you’re coming from.”
This morning I discovered a Pynchon movie is due out in December ‘Inherit Vice’.
“The setting is Los Angeles in 1970; the arrest and trial of the Manson Family is featured throughout the novel as a current event. Larry “Doc” Sportello, private investigator and “pothead”, receives a visit from his former girlfriend Shasta Fay Hepworth, now having an affair with the real-estate mogul Mickey Wolfmann. Shasta asks Doc to help foil a plot allegedly hatched by Mickey’s wife Sloane and her lover, Riggs Warbling, to have Mickey admitted to a mental health institution. Soon afterwards Tariq Khalil asks Doc to find the whereabouts of Glen Charlock, one of Mickey’s bodyguards—Tariq claims that Glen owes him money after their time spent together in prison.
Thomas Pynchon wrote Inherit Vice in 2009. Had he been reading my blogs? Reese Witherspoon will play Shasta. She is in my and Mary Ann Tharaldsen’s family tree, as is Mel Lyman and his wife, Jessie Benton, whose cult following allegedly worshipped Charles Manson. There is an alleged music interest between Mel and Manson, that appears to be extended to musician Bobby Beausoleil who played in the Grass Roots, Arthur Lee’s band that became ‘Love’.
My friend Bryan Maclean replaced Bobby. One blogger suggests Bobby had it out for Bryan who was invited to the Polanski residence the night the Manson family showed up. In an interview Bryan says he changed his mind at the last moment, but, I don’t believe him. I think he knew Manson and Bobby who murdered musician Gary Hinman over a dope deal gone bad. I don’t buy it. I suspect Bobby was pressuring Hinman to promote his and Charlie’s music. When he refused, Charlie showed up. This story of a motorcycle gang is bogus because members would have come forth and bragged, and, there is not investigation of them.
Pynchon was not a hippie, nor did he hang out with hippies. He was married to my ex who was part of the hippie scene, but for her connection to me, she was more of a Beat. I knew members of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love who were LA surfers. Bryan was a surfer, as was Larry Sidel, who married my sister Christine. Larry was a LSD salesman, and my have hung with the BEL.
Above is a pic of Bryan singing at Mary Ann and my wedding. Bobby was nicknamed ‘Cupid’. Mary Bruner named her son by Charlie ‘Valentine’
Is this Bobby’s son? Like myself, Bryan got sober. He found Jesus. He talks about how close he came to death. His friend, Sky, was murdered by Malinda’s father. Did Bryan know the truth about the Manson Murders, and knew this cult would kill him if her spoke out? I suspect Sharon Tate knew Manson was going to show up. I believe he was there. Did Bryan know?
Bryan partied with the Polanskis, and was a friend of Terry Melcher who worked in the music industry with the Wilson brothers of Beach Boy fame, who befriended and housed the Manson Family. How David met member of the family, sounds bogus. Allegedly the Polanskis were into masochism that produced the movie ‘Rosemarie’s Baby’. It appears Bryan knew Charlie. Bryan knew everyone. Did he bring him to David Wilson’s house. Charlie got to know all the musicians in LA. Was Bryan screwing a Manson chic?
Bryan was Christine’s lover. My friend, Michael Harkins, was a private investigator who volunteered to work undercover at our wedding reception where he caught a son of Mary Ann’s good friend, going through purses. My wife got upset at Michael. The question is, was my friend Pynchon’s model for Larry “Doc” Sportello. Michael acted like a doctor, and was trained by the famous detective, William Lindhart, who was hired by Carl Chessman. Michael offered to investigate the death of my late sister, the world famous artist ‘Rosamond’.
It’s time to put my book in print. I have given so much REAL STUFF away for FREE! Pynchon is a wanna-be hippie who is exploiting my brothers and sisters.
As Dennis Wilson became increasingly aware of Manson’s volatile nature and growing tendency to violence, he finally made a break from the friendship by simply moving out of the house and leaving Manson there. When Manson subsequently sought further contact (and money), he left a bullet with Wilson’s housekeeper to be delivered with a cryptic message, which Wilson perceived as a threat.
In August 1969, Manson Family members perpetrated the Tate/LaBianca murders. Wilson rarely discussed his involvement with the Manson Family, and usually became upset when the subject was broached.[citation
I thought you might enjoy this excerpt from drummer Michael Stuart-Ware’s memoir “Love; Behind the Scenes on the Pegasus Carousal”:
‘As we pulled into the drive way I brought my car to a stop. I saw Terry walk out onto the porch. He stepped down and approached my car.
“Hi Ronnie.” (Ronnie Haran booked the talent for the Whiskey, she was a New York native and one of the toughest agents in the business). He smiled and gave her a hug. Then, turning to me, “Michael, I’m Terry.” We shook hands. “You guys come on in, I’ve just got some high quality weed. Let’s try it.” He opened the door and we went inside where he gestured to a large sofa in front of a river stone fireplace. Canyon rustic, the interior of the living room rested under a large beam ceiling. Terry rolled a joint. then he took a long hit and passed it to Ronnie.
“Hey Michael,” he said finally. “I understand your considering an offer to become Love’s new drummer. You should grab it man. They’re great, a very unique group.”
For the next twenty minutes or so, Terry filled us in on an upcoming project, and then he glanced at his watch . “I have to meet some people at a private screening down on Sunset. Why don’t you two come with me?” He gathered up the bag of weed and we left.
The next time I saw Terry’s house was several years later, on the evening news, only he didn’t own it anymore. Roman Polanski did. I couldn’t help but think how the peaceful and tranquil atmosphere we had enjoyed in Terry’s living room that night was only a temporary mask, in sharp contrast to the unspeakable hell that would eventually take place there when Charlie’s girls came to call on the new residents.’
–Creepy or what? By most accounts however Terry let the Polanski’s sublet Cielo Drive while he moved into his Mom’s place that summer. Did Mark Lindsey talk much about the house Sioux?
Ware’s book is really good and his inner portrait of Arthur Lee, Bryan MacLean and Love is a terrific read….there’s a funny scene at “The Castle” in Laurel Canyon where Arthur lived with his pidgeons and cursed out a naked Jim Morrison for being an exhibitionist and swimming in his pool bare-assed for all the neighbors to see! The Doors, after Love were the second Rock act signed to Elektra and Bryan and Jim tripped on acid and hung out a bit until Arthur got too unfriendly with Jim and made him feel unwelcome.
The way women were used in the Manson family was a freak version of prostitution; they were sexual bait to get bikers and other men to join the family; loving care from 15-year-old girls kept 65 year old George Spahn from kicking the family off his ranch. To an incredible extent Manson thrived off the resources of women: they scrounged for food in the garbage behind supermarkets, did ripoffs, etc. To say nothing of the endless list of women with money and connections who turned them over to Manson: a stockbroker’s daughter; a teacher with an $11,000 trust fund; a divorcee who contributed a good part of her $2 million settlement; Linda Kasabian, who was welcomed into the family after ripping off $5,000 from one of the men she had been travelling with, to name a few.
Living off women, is of course, what pimps do. How progressive of hippie men to have liberated themselves from the confines of straight jobs so that they can go and do likewise. How fortunate for Mel Lyman to have fallen in love with Jessie Benton, falling heir to a great deal of Thomas Hart Benton’s property in the bargain. On a less lavish scale, freak women everywhere end up doing the same: in the country turning over their welfare checks; in the city, turning tricks. A worker from Project Place said:
– Rock journalist/author, Barney Hoskyns, revealed
in his book, Arthur Lee: Alone Again Or (2001),
that Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil played
rhythm guitar for the rock group Love briefly in
1965, when they were named The Grass Roots.
During a very strange interview in 1992, Lee told me: “We were competing a bit like Lennon and McCartney to see who would come up with the better song. It was part of our charm. Everybody had different behaviour patterns. Eventually, the others couldn’t cut it.” Lee sacked the rest of the band and assumed the Love mantle from mid-1968. He briefly worked with Jimi Hendrix and nearly died of a drug overdose in 1970.
MacLean also fell from grace. “I don’t think I could cope with even the minimal amount of fame that I experienced. It was difficult to stay balanced. To be honest, it almost killed me just to have the notoriety that I had. To have my face more well-known would have been pathogenic. I don’t know if I could have lived through it,” he later admitted.
Canned Heat’s drummer, Fito de la Parra, revealed
–in his book, Living the Blues–that Morrison was
friends with Alan Wilson, one of Canned Heat’s
founding members, rhythm guitarist, harmonica
player, and vocalist.(1) On September 3, 1970,
Wilson was found dead in a sleeping bag near the
home of fellow band member, Bob “the Bear” Hite,
in Topanga Canyon, L.A.(2) Wilson was living with
Hite at the time of his death. De la Parra further
claims Hite (also deceased) boasted of “knowing
Manson family members.”(3) It is quite possible
–given the location of Hite’s home in Topanga
Canyon–that Hite did in fact meet members of the
Manson family at the Spiral Staircase, the Satanic
house in Topanga Canyon where Manson and his family
members once spent a lot of time. And since Morrison
was friends with Hite’s house mate, Alan Wilson, it
is quite possible that Morrison and Wilson may have
accompanied Hite to the Spiral Staircase at some
point where Morrison may have met Manson. In
addition, Morrison had bought his longtime
girlfriend, Pamela Courson, a cottage in Topanga.(4)
So he was geographically close to the Spiral
Staircase through Courson as well as Bob Hite
and Alan Wilson.
– Rock journalist/author, Barney Hoskyns, revealed
in his book, Arthur Lee: Alone Again Or (2001),
that Manson family member Bobby Beausoleil played
rhythm guitar for the rock group Love briefly in
1965, when they were named The Grass Roots.(5)
(Different band than the Grass Roots that had
several hits in the late Sixties.) Beausoleil was
later convicted of murdering Gary Hinman. Morrison
was friends with Love’s founder, Arthur Lee. In
fact, Lee encouraged Elektra Records’ founder and
president, Jac Holzman, to sign the Doors. (6)
Beausoleil claims he remained on good terms with
Lee after leaving Love. (Beausoleil was replaced
by Bryan Maclean because Maclean had been a roadie
for the Byrds and had lots of connections in the
LA music scene through the renowned rock group.)
Beausoleil claims Lee renamed the group Love, in
honor of Beausoleil, because his nickname was
Cupid.(7) Surprisingly, Vincent Bugliosi
corroborated that Beausoleil’s nickname was in
fact Cupid in Bugliosi’s famous book, Helter
Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders.(8)
Given that Beausoleil and Lee apparently remained
friends after parting ways musically, and given
that Morrison was also friends with Lee, and given
that Beausoleil was a member of Charlie Manson’s
renowned “family”, it is quite possible that Manson
met Morrison through the Lee/Beausoleil connection.
– Writer Barney Hoskyns claims Jerry Hopkins and
Doug Lyon co-managed Love in 1966.(9) This is quite
odd, given that Hopkins mentioned Love in his
Morrison biography, No One Here Gets Out Alive
(co-authored with Danny Sugerman), but failed to
reveal that he managed the lesser-known LA band.
– One of Love’s albums shows them standing/sitting
on a spiral staircase. During that period, Love
reportedly lived together in a Gothic mansion once
owned by actor Bela Lugosi. On May 22, 1999, Sean
Elder wrote an article about Love for Salon magazine
in San Francisco. In the article, Elder described
how the mansion’s “destroyed fireplace and spiral
staircase appear in most of the Love photo shoots”
from the Sixties.(10) Could Lugosi’s Gothic
mansion be the same place in Topanga Canyon that
Charlie Manson called the “Spiral Staircase,” the
house of drugs, sex and depraved satanic practices?
(NOTE: Someone mentioned recently–in a discussion
group on one of Love’s websites–that the Lugosi
house is not the same residence as the Satanic
Spiral Staircase, frequented by Manson et al.
Manson claims he met Bobby Beausoleil at the Spiral
Staircase, so there appears to be a common thread
surrounding this bizarre residence. Further
research is needed to determine if it is in fact
the same place.)
Based on the evidence presented herein, it is highly
possible–if not probable–that Manson and Morrison
met at some point, and perhaps saw each other
frequently at the Spiral Staircase in Topanga Canyon.
After her release from prison in 1977, Brunner disassociated herself from the Manson Family and regained custody of her son. She subsequently changed her name and currently lives in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Excerpt from the Truman Capote interview with Bobby BeauSoleil. Bobby is one arrogant, cocky man, but he tells the truth.
Truman Capote: You’re not making much sense-at least to me. And I don’t think you’re stupid. Let’s try again. In your opinion, it’s all right that Manson sent Tex Watson and those girls into that house to slaughter total strangers, innocent people
Bobby BeauSoleil: I said: Who says they were innocent? They burned people on dope deals. Sharon Tate and that gang. They picked up kids on the Strip and took them home and whipped them. Made movies of it. Ask the cops; they found the movies.Movies were indeed found. Not that they’d tell you the truth.
Truman Capote: The truth is, the LaBiancas and Sharon Tate and her friends were killed to protect you. Their deaths were directly linked to the Gary Hinman murder.
Bobby BeauSoleil: I hear you. I hear where you’re coming from.
Truman Capote: Those were all imitations of the Hinman murder-to prove that you couldn’t have killed Hinman. And thereby get you out of jail.
Bobby BeauSoleil: To get me out of jail. (He nods, smiles, sighs-complimented) None of that came out at any of the trials. The girls got on the stand and tried to really tell how it all came down, but nobody would listen. People couldn’t believe anything except what the media said. The media had them programmed to believe it all happened because we were out to start a race war. That it was mean niggers going around hurting all these good white folk. Only-it was like you say. The media, they called us a “family.” And it was the only true thing they said. We were a family. We were mother, father, brother, sister, daughter, son. If a member of our family was in jeopardy, we didn’t abandon that person. And so for the love of a brother, a brother who was in jail on a murder rap, all those killings came down.
On August 21, 1971, Mary Brunner, accompanied by Family member Catherine “Gypsy” Share and several male Family associates — Dennis Rice, Charles Lovett, Larry Bailey, and Kenneth Como — drove a white van to a Hawthorne, California Western Surplus Store. Once inside the store, the group brandished guns and ordered the store patrons and clerks to lie on the ground. They then took 143 rifles from the premises, loading them into their van, while a store clerk tripped the silent alarm. According to police officers, the group then debated whether to kill all of those in the store.
The group’s plan was to hijack a Boeing 747 and threaten to kill one passenger every hour until Manson and fellow Family members were released from prison. When a police squad car arrived, Share opened fire on the vehicle, shattering the windshield. As more squad cars arrived, they blocked the van from fleeing the scene, spraying it with over 50 bullets; the Family members fired nearly 20 rounds at the officers. When police finally gained control of the scene and apprehended the group, Mary Brunner, Catherine Share, and Larry Bailey were injured.
Brunner and Share were convicted of the crime and incarcerated at the California Institution for Women, where Leslie Van Houten, Susan Atkins and Patricia Krenwinkel were serving their sentences for their participation in the Tate/LaBianca murders. Brunner served just over six years for her participation in the Hawthorne shootout and was released in 1977.
So, Beausoleil’s van probably didn’t just break down as recounted (Beausoleil tells a different story himself, anyway). Similarly, Dennis Wilson probably didn’t meet Manson due to his picking up those Family hitchhikers (an equally questionable tale of motorway madness).
Which is not to say that, when you peel off the top layer of seeming psychedelic randomness, the whole scene still doesn’t bristle with synchronicities. Au contraire….
Take, for example, Beausoleil’s role as rhythm guitarist in an early incarnation of Arthur Lee’s Love, The Grass Roots. Eventually replaced by Bryan MacLean, Beausoleil would go on to claim that his nickname at that time, “Cupid,” in part by inspired the band’s ultimate change of name.
Arguably, the hot-headed Beausoleil was probably not the kind of guy it was wise to usurp, and MaClean certainly experienced a very narrow escape.
According to Manson murderer Susan Atkins, it was actually Beausoleil’s arrest for the torture-murder of Gary Hinman that instigated the Manson Family’s ensuing murder spree—enacted, she would claim, in order to convince police that the killer(s) of Gary Hinman were in fact still at large.
Whether or not this was true motivation for the Tate/LaBianca killings, Beausoleil’s connection to them—as progenitor, inspiration, or both—is indisputable, which is why it’s really just super strange that (and feel free to here start whistling “The Red Telephone”) Beausoleil’s replacement in Love, Bryan MaClean, a close friend of Sharon Tate’s, was invited over to Cieolo Drive on the night of the killings, having a change of heart at the last minute.
Nurse Ratched (also known as “Big Nurse”) is a fictional character and the main antagonist of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, as well as the 1975 film. A cold, heartless tyrant, Nurse Ratched has become the stereotype of the nurse as a battleaxe. She has also become a popular metaphor for the corrupting influence of power and authority in bureaucracies such as the mental institution in which the novel is set.
Manson arrived and proceeded to slice off a part of Hinman’s ear with a sword; Atkins and Brunner stitched it up with dental floss afterwards. Manson then ordered Beausoleil to kill Hinman and told him to make it look as if the crime had been committed by black revolutionaries, as he had been predicting to his Family that a race war was imminent. Beausoleil stabbed Hinman to death as Hinman chanted a Buddhist chant. Afterwards, he wrote the words “Political piggy” on a wall in Hinman’s blood in an attempt to lead police to believe the murder was done by a group of radicals. After he wrote the words, Beausoleil dipped his hand in Hinman’s blood and left a paw print, symbolizing The Black Panthers, in order to mislead the investigators of Hinman’s murder. Beausoleil was subsequently arrested on August 6, 1969 after falling asleep in Hinman’s broken down Fiat alongside U.S. Route 101 just North of San Luis Obispo.
Circa 1965, Beausoleil was a member of Arthur Lee’s band the Grass Roots, which later changed its name to Love. Lee claimed to have bestowed the nickname “Bummer Bob” on Beausoleil due to a drug burn. Beausoleil claims that Lee named his band Love in reference to another of his many nicknames — “Cupid.” Circa 1966, Beausoleil joined a band called The Orkustra; bandmate David LaFlamme went on to greater success with It’s a Beautiful Day. Following his stint in The Orkustra, Beausoleil put together the band he called The Magick Powerhouse of Oz.
In the late 1970s, with the permission of the prison, he composed and recorded the soundtrack for Kenneth Anger’s movie Lucifer Rising after Anger’s first choice, Jimmy Page, couldn’t manage to deliver enough music for the film after three years of waiting, according to Anger. The official Beausoleil soundtrack was released on CD (along with archival material from The Orkustra and The Magick Powerhouse of Oz) in 2004. He’s also recorded and released two albums of instrumental material (Orb and Mantra).
In 2005, a selection of his artwork exhibited in Clair Obscur Gallery, Los Angeles. Just prior to the exhibition, the gallery exhibited photos of Sharon Tate. The parole board, in denying parole in 2005, stated that this display and marketing of Beausoleil’s artwork was exploitative of the victims and showed a lapse of judgment by Beausoleil.
Bobby Beausoleil in literature
Truman Capote interviewed Bobby Beausoleil while the latter was imprisoned in San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, California. Capote then published the interview in the form of a short story “Then It All Came Down”, included in Music for Chameleons.
Michael Harkins, and his family, have been close friends of mine, and other mutual friends, since 1965. Michael went to the California College of Arts and Crafts, and was good friends with the Stackpole family.
Michael married the ex-wife of Bruce Perlowin who married a famous and dangerous Russian Spy while in the fed lock-up. A movie is being made about Bruce who lived in the Harkin’s basement for several month, and did business with Abbey Hoffman, there.
Arround 1990 Michael and I went to lunch with William Linhart, the Private Investigator who Cayrl Chessman hired to keep him from going to the electric chair. We accompanied Bill to KTVU in Jack London Square where he was going to be interviewed.
One can’t drive through Marshall and Pottawatomie counties in northeastern Kansas without seeing the historical markers.
The Oregon Trail. The Donner Party. The Kansas State Historical Society has punctuated state history with tall, elaborate plaques, and perhaps, in the far future, still another could be placed a few miles southeast of Blue Rapids.
It could read this way:
Benton Farm. Site of the late-20th century homestead of the Lyman Family, sometimes called the Hill People in Boston and once indirectly compared, in Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1970s, with the Charles Manson family.
Begun as a commune in the 1960s, this family would publish a newspaper, the Avatar, which temporarily would be banned in Boston. Jailed briefly, members of this family later would be released, thus helping to define First Amendment applications in Massachusetts.
In the early 1970s, members of the family stretched a string across a map of the United States. The middle of the string fell near Delphos, Kan.
Soon, the late Thomas Hart Benton painted a rendering of an old farmhouse and sold it for approximately $42,000. With the proceeds he bought 280 acres not far from Delphos.
The Lyman Family, including Mr. Benton’s daughter, Jessie, would settle nearby, in Marshall County. It would serve as a haven from the fallout that followed, during the early 1970s, from a bank robbery by family members, the burning of neighboring property on Martha’s Vineyard, and two consecutive cover stories in Rolling Stone magazine that described Mel Lyman, the group’s charismatic leader, and his brand of “acid fascism. ”
After 15 years of silence, the family’s collective voice resurfaced in U & I, a slick and handsome magazine distributed nationally in 1986.
Another Doorway to the Paranoid Pynchon Dimension
By MICHIKO KAKUTANI
Published: August 3, 2009
Thomas Pynchon’s “Inherent Vice” is a big, clunky time machine of a novel that transports us back to the early 1970s, back to a California of surfers and surf bunnies, bikers and biker chicks, hippies, freaks and righteous potheads. It was a time when people lived for Acapulco gold and Panama red and lived on pizza and Hostess Twinkies, a time when girls wore their hair long and their skirts short, guys wore paisley and velour and suede, and people were constantly monitoring their paranoia levels and worrying about narcs and cops and the feds.
The reclusive Thomas Pynchon in an undated high school yearbook photo.
By Thomas Pynchon
369 pages. The Penguin Press. $27.95.
ArtsBeat: From the Archives: Reviewing Thomas Pynchon
Times Topics: Thomas Pynchon
Paper Cuts Blog: An Interactive Map of Pynchon’s L.A.
The Sunday Book Review on ‘Inherent Vice’ (August 23, 2009)
Compared with “Gravity’s Rainbow” or “V.” or “Mason & Dixon,” this novel is Pynchon Lite. Those earlier books featured intricate, mazelike narratives and enigmatic confrontations between what he has called “average poor bastards” and emissaries of “an emerging technopolitical order that might or might not know what it was doing.” In contrast, “Inherent Vice” is a simple shaggy-dog detective story that pits likable dopers against the Los Angeles Police Department and its “countersubversive” agents, a novel in which paranoia is less a political or metaphysical state than a byproduct of smoking too much weed.
“Inherent Vice” not only reminds us how rooted Mr. Pynchon’s authorial vision is in the ’60s and ’70s, but it also demystifies his work, underscoring the similarities that his narratives — which mix high and low cultural allusions, silly pranks and gnomic historical references, mischievous puns, surreal dreamlike sequences and a playful sense of the absurd — share with the work of artists like Bob Dylan, Ken Kesey, Jack Kerouac and even Richard Brautigan.
Like “Vineland,” his other ode to the counterculture era, this novel conjures a California where characters talk in the trippy, spaced-out language of the frequently stoned and lead wacky, slacker-type existences. It’s a California reminiscent of the one Tom Wolfe depicted in “The Pump House Gang” and “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” a place that stands in sharp contrast to the capitalistic conformity of the “Midol America” that Mr. Pynchon had suggested would arrive in the Reaganite ’80s. The hero of “Inherent Vice” worries that “the Psychedelic Sixties, this little parenthesis of light, might close after all, and all be lost, taken back into darkness,” that “everything in this dream of prerevolution was in fact doomed to end,” with the “faithless, money-driven world” reasserting “its control over all the lives it felt entitled to touch, fondle and molest.”
If “Vineland” read like a user-friendly companion piece to “The Crying of Lot 49,” then “Inherent Vice” reads like a workmanlike improvisation on “Vineland.” Once again the plot is propelled by a search for a missing woman, a former hippie who consorted with an incongruous representative of the capitalistic power grid. And once again there are efforts by the powers-that-be to turn hippies and potheads to the dark side, to turn them into informants through re-education programs or the enticement of money.
In this case the hero is one Doc Sportello, a private eye — that is a gumshoe, or as another character says, a “gumsandal” — who gets a request from his former girlfriend Shasta Fay to look into a plot against her current boyfriend, Mickey Wolfmann, a real estate big shot. Soon Shasta and Mickey have vanished, and Doc finds their disappearance converging with his other cases: a search for an ex-con named Glen Charlock, who was one of Mickey’s bodyguards, and a search for a former rock musician named Coy Harlingen, who supposedly died of a heroin overdose but may still be alive.
On top of dealing with his nemesis, Detective Lt. Bigfoot Bjornsen, Doc must contend with sinister emissaries of a mysterious entity known as the Golden Fang, which may be an Indochinese heroin cartel or a shadowy holding company or a syndicate set up by dentists as a tax dodge. He also investigates a hit man “specializing in politicals — black and Chicano activists, antiwar protesters, campus bombers and assorted other pinko” radicals. Mr. Pynchon’s picaresque plots, of course, are Christmas trees on which he can hang all sorts of ornaments, tinsel, garlands and flashing lights, and the plot of “Inherent Vice” is no exception. There are yards and yards of stoned conversations in which people wonder why there is “Chicken of the Sea, but no Tuna of the Farm” and talk about “doorways to other dimensions” or a lost continent called Lemuria, “the Atlantis of the Pacific.”
There are also coy, self-referential allusions to earlier Pynchon novels, like a “catapult mail delivery” system, “courrier par lance-coco,” that recalls the alternative mail system in “The Crying of Lot 49”; and “a cosmic insane Surfaris laugh” that comes screaming “across the sky,” and reminds us of the opening of “Gravity’s Rainbow.”
Doc’s cases lead him to a Las Vegas casino, a rock ’n’ roll band’s Los Angeles digs, a tacky massage parlor, an Asian-theme club in San Pedro, an abandoned utopian village in the desert, a New Age retreat near Ojai and back and forth across the Los Angeles freeways, giving the reader a tour of the city in its post-Manson, paranoiac phase. Mr. Pynchon does a vivid, surprisingly naturalistic job of delineating the city around 1970 — the year the Lakers lost to the Knicks in Game 7 — capturing the laid-back, slightly seedy aura of a metropolis that was still a magnet for drifters, dreamers and dopers, and not yet in thrall to blockbuster movies and multiplexes and Rodeo Drive money.
The characters in this novel, however, are decidedly less three-dimensional. With the exception of Doc, who has a vague, poignant charm, they bear less of a resemblance to the fully human heroes of “Mason & Dixon” than to the flimsy paper dolls who populated much of his earlier fiction: collections of funny Pynchonian names, bizarre tics, weird occupations and weirder sexual predilections. Many seem to exist for no reason other than that Mr. Pynchon dreamed them up and inserted them into the story, to fill up space or to act as vague red herrings in Doc’s quest to find Shasta and ensure her safety.
Though “Inherent Vice” is a much more cohesive performance than the author’s last novel, the bloated and pretentious “Against the Day,” it feels more like a Classic Comics version of a Pynchon novel than like the thing itself. It reduces the byzantine complexities of “Gravity’s Rainbow” and “V.” — and their juxtapositions of nihilism and conspiracymongering, Dionysian chaos and Apollonian reason, anarchic freedom and the machinery of power — to a cartoonish face-off between an amiable pothead, whose “general policy was to try to be groovy about most everything,” and a bent law-enforcement system. Not surprisingly, the reader is encouraged, as one character observes, referring to George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” comic strip, to “root for Ignatz,” the anarchic, brick-hurling mouse, not Officer Pupp, the emissary of order and law.
Nancy Van Brasch Hamren brought her grandmother’s recipe to Springfield Creamery in the late ’60s when she started as bookkeeper. She still works in 2010 as office manager.
Nancy Van Brasch Hamren had a recipe. Her health-conscious grandmother made yogurt, and so did she during the months she lived on Ken Kesey’s farm near Eugene.
Hamren, a lanky, soft-spoken Californian, ran in circles simply psychedelic with history. She lived in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district from 1966 to 1968, the bookends to 1967’s Summer of Love. Her boyfriend’s sister was married to Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead’s shaggy-haired lead guitarist. And they all knew Ken Kesey — from his books, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Sometimes a Great Notion,” and from the infamous, drug-juiced parties known as Acid Tests, which he hosted and promoted.